Designer Ozwald Boateng Tells “A Man’s Story”

Designer Ozwald Boateng Tells “A Man’s Story” (photo)

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Directed by Varon Bonicos (who also created the TV series “House of Boateng”), the documentary “A Man’s Story” spans an epic dozen years in the life of its subject, designer and larger than life fashion world figure Ozwald Boateng. The youngest and first black tailor to open a shop on London’s Savile Row, Boateng starts the film in 1998 at a low point, having lost his business in the midst of a tough divorce. “A Man’s Story” treks through the next decade-plus at a breakneck pace, charting Boateng’s stint at Givenchy, his marriage, the birth of his two children, his second divorce, his celebrity-studded charity event in Ghana, fashion shows in Milan, in Paris, in London, trips to China, Russia, Los Angeles, Doha, runways, red carpets, offices, storefronts, parties, planes. It’s a glittering blur throughout which Boateng remains tireless, both in his work and as a careful curator of his personal brand. I caught up with filmmaker and his subject after the film’s world premiere here at the fittingly upscale Abu Dhabi Film Festival — both were clad, of course, in impeccable suits.

When this started, it was intended to be a three to five month project — how did it end up going on for so much longer?

Ozwald Boateng: There’s no easy answer to that, because it doesn’t really make any sense. No one would plan a film for 12 years. Varon has maybe 400 hours of usable material. To put that into an hour and a half is quite something, and when you watch it you don’t realize you’re actually carrying that amount of weight. You feel the emotional experience, but you slip through the time, it’s very cleverly put together in that way.

The film is about belief, about love, about getting it right and getting it wrong, getting it right, getting it wrong. If you look at anyone’s life over that period, it looks like that. And there are a lot of famous people in the film, but you don’t feel their fame, you feel them as people. That’s one of the fundamental points, communicating that wherever you are in your life, we’re all still trying to get to the same place emotionally. And I’ve been able to expose myself in a way that under normal circumstances is not done. The first time I watched the film, I couldn’t speak for a week, week and a half about it.

10222010_mansstory4.jpgVaron Bonicos: For me, it’s like when you have a newsprint picture. You look at it really close and can only see one dot, and you start to pull out and you see lots and lots of dots, and by the time you get to the end, the edge, you go “Oh my god, that’s the picture!”

How did you know you were done?

VB: Ozwald was always very confident in everything, but he got to the point in his life where he was absolutely set. If you ultimately love something you have to be able to let it go — that’s one of the things that I learned.

Ozwald, you’ve made ten short films yourself, have they all been connected to collections?

OB: The first catwalk show I did in Paris in 1994, my invite was a short film. Those days it was on VHS cassettes. It seemed like a really interesting tool to use — film is immediate in terms of delivering an emotion. When you show the clothes afterward, it’s a good set-up for that. That became a part of my creative life.

When Varon started filming, I already had an understanding of film, and that’s kind of why I agreed to make the piece… which was supposed to last three to six months. Why he was able to film so long — he has a gift for disappearing. He’s been in places with me where it’s impossible to film, but he’s been able to film. I’m a creative — I challenge myself a lot, so I understand the gift of being able to do that.

Varon, did you show Ozwald any rough cuts along the way?

VB: No, the interview at the end, where he talks about the dream, he saw it just before. If you rewind your life 12 years — I think he was quite blown away, because you forget everything.

Ozwald, can you tell me about the work you’ve done in film costume design?

OB: Usually I dress characters — more often than not, the lead. I’d like to dress a whole movie, like Armani did for “The Untouchables.”

10222010_mansstory5.jpgDoes that happen often?

OB: No, that’s rare. You almost take the role of a wardrobe designer for the film. In terms of how it works, wardrobe will come to me and have a character in mind, and I’ll create a series of looks. In the case of “Miami Vice,” where I was dressing Jamie Foxx, I went and saw Michael Mann. I showed him the Chinese film [shot during the course of the documentary], he liked that. He works very similar to me — he creates a series of mood boards, he’s very visual in his process.

He’s also very detailed. Jamie was wearing one of my pieces, and Michael Mann talked about moving the button down about a centimeter. I thought I was the only one who was crazy enough to think in those terms. I said, well, look, I’ve spent the last 17 years figuring [these things] out, trust me, it’s in the right place. He still tried to go on about it. Jamie said, I don’t think that’s a good idea! Then we had a big laugh about it. Creating for film is really understanding the character.

Are there any films you’ve found particularly inspiring in your work?

OB: I did some clothes for a James Bond film, but it was for the bad guy. I want to dress James Bond. In 1995, I did a whole James Bond fashion show in Paris. It was quite a number, actually. I did it at the circus, and had models dropping from the ceiling. On that collection, I won Designer of the Year in France. It really struck a chord. That show was inspired by the whole James Bond, the man who could be everything. I’ve always been on this journey of discovering what makes men tick. The whole concept of making a suit, being a tailor is understanding the needs of the man you’re making the suit for.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.